The Mac's desktop has always been the place from which you work with files, folders, system configuration, and so on. This setup continues in Mac OS X; the desktop enables you to manipulate the files and folders on your Mac. You also can access commands that appear nowhere else, and you can control many aspects of how your system performs. And, of course, you can also use the Finder to find folders and files that are stored on your machine.
Although the basic purpose of the Mac OS X desktop is the same as previous versions, its appearance and functionality are quite different (see Figure 4.1). More important than the improved appearance of the desktop, which is pretty amazing in itself, are the numerous functional improvements that Mac OS X desktop offers. These include new menus, a new directory structure, the new Info tool, and so on.
For information on viewing and using Finder windows, see Chapter 3, "Viewing and Navigating Mac OS X Finder Windows," p. 41.
Because the Dock is such an important part of Mac OS X, it has a chapter dedicated to it; see Chapter 5, "Using and Customizing the Dock," p. 105.
If you look carefully at Figure 4.1, you might notice something startling. One of the most familiar parts of the Mac OS desktop since very early versions, the Special menu is no longer part of the Finder's menu bar. The commands that used to be located there are now part of the Apple and Finder menus.